Age Group Coaching by Jim Montrella (2003)


Tim thanks very much.  We had a chance to meet each other – well we knew each other before – but really get a chance to know each other with the US World University Games team in Majorca, Spain. Not only on a professional level, but at the same time, a personal level because he knows very well some of the difficulties that exist with families, that I am sure you do too, when you are traveling around and you have emergencies that pop up at home. So we had a lot to talk about on that trip.


When John Leonard called, he asked me to talk on age group swimming, and I thought that that was rather unique because I had not coached age group for about 34 years. The past 15 or 16 months has been a re-introduction to the 11 and 12 year olds, which absolutely has been hysterical. What comes out of their mouths, especially the boys, is something that is certainly unique to me because working with the college women or college men is a little bit more subdued than the kids.


I thought that maybe I should consider the possibilities of thinking of yesterday, today and tomorrow in terms of some history, and it is interesting that Tim identified some of that. I want to mention some names that I know some of you wont remember, but some of you will since I do see some of you out there that have not only graying hair, but your hair in your nostrils and your ears are growing faster than what is on your head. So I can relate to that, but here are some names. Certainly my primary mentor was Jerry LaBonty, who at one time held the American record in the 200 breaststroke and coached Long Beach YMCA which Bill Rose knows even better than I do. A guy by the name of Phil Scott also from the San Pedro Y, who was the first person in the country to publish anything on circle swimming – circle pattern – and that goes all the way back to the 50s. Monty, who most of you think of as a water polo coach, but was an outstanding swimming coach as well.  Chris Christensen of Sherman Oaks Swim School. I know some of you in the valley will remember that if you are here in California – excellent on stoke mechanics.  Mel Maxwell of Blue Boy Swim School, and I remember as Tim indicated a moment ago, wanting to learn as much as I could when I was younger and searched out those people who were the most successful. I cornered Mel Maxwell at my first national championship when I had a young lady there by the name of Dianna Turk in breaststroke. I asked Mel what he felt was important to be a really successful coach, and he said, “Well its an easy question Jim. You have to learn the five ‘ologies’.” And I said,  “Well, what are those five ‘ologies’?” He indicated that it was kinesiology, physiology, anatom-ology, there was another one, and finance-ology. Oh, psychology. And he said, “Jim, of all of those, the most important is finance-ology.” I remembered that for years, but now I think I would even add one, and that would be politic-ology. And it gets worse, so laugh all you like.  On tapering – Johnny Joseph from Santa Monica Community College. Oh my God – George Haines on stroke mechanics, the outstanding Doc Councilman on stroke and training, and Peter Dayland on quadrennial planning.  I mean, there are so many people that I felt so thankful to have learned so much from and certainly countless others who I really would be unfair to try and continue on.


Some of you know that I was very involved and somewhat still am with hand paddles, and Bob Reid, who had a swim school right here in San Diego, was the first person I ever knew involved in using hand paddles. I don’t know if Flip Dar is here with us today.  I know he is the first person Flip Dar ever knew who used hand paddles to teach swimming, and, when Flip started using the paddles with Gary Hall, I picked his brain about that and then asked him more about Bob Reid and the rest is kind of history regarding me and developing hand paddles for the last 20 some years.


Three other people I think I should mention because, in my entire career, I did not have a mentor. In some ways it may be good and in other ways not so good to have really been mentored directly by a head coach. I started out as a head coach myself, and after almost 20 years my first assistant position was as assistant Olympic coach. Jack Nelson was the head coach, and those of you who know Jack, has got to be the funniest man in the world, even funnier than John. And you can tell John I said that. It was a very challenging position for me to be in, especially in 1976 because we knew that the East Germans had been using drugs as early as the 60s – nobody wanted to admit it. By ‘76 it became very obvious, and it took all the way to 1990 before somebody started doing anything about it. But it almost broke up a friendship that I had with Jack, and after I left those games, which by the way, we are really good friends, I thought, “My God, I want to be a better assistant coach when I ever get the opportunity again.” I had an assistant coach at Ohio State that magnified that even more, fortunately for only one year because the best one I ever had is the one I married. Bev is here? Yes. Thank you very much. And that really taught me another lesson about not having loyal, honest assistant coaches. I know a lot of people here are assistant coaches now, and I think that is the most important thing that I can tell you. If you don’t have the loyalty and the honesty with your head coach, you need to leave and find another place to coach. I know that that sounds hardball for the beginning of a conversation about age group coaching, but I couldn’t be more honest.


Then the next opportunity was with Mark Schubert at USC, and that was hysterical. We have known each other for years. We get along well, and I had a wonderful time. And now with Coach Bill Rose, who swam for me. No not really – Bill actually was on our team roster.  Jerry LaBonty was the head coach of the Long Beach Dolphin swim club, and I had the Lakewood YMCA Tarpons. We merged those two teams in 1964 forming Lakewood Aquatic Club. That was probably in those days one of the biggest, if not the biggest, clubs in the country, and it was all competitive – not learn-to-swim.  I think it was about 160 swimmers, so that was probably the beginning of what you would call the super size clubs, although it got a lot bigger after that. So being an assistant on those occasions and now has been really enjoyable because I don’t want to be the head coach. It is really tough being a head coach. Everything is on your shoulders all the time, and the bigger your club is and the more outstanding opportunities that you are given, the harder it becomes, so you really need to rely on those assistants. Bill Rose, by the way, I want to tell you, I remember the first time he swam in 1957. It was a 200 breaststroke right here, Imperial Beach Plunge, and he was out front. He was leading and then Mike McCory went by him, who was his teammate. Then his coach went by him, Jerry LaBonty, and then Jerry looked over, saw where Bill was, slowed down, and let Bill touch him out. It was a great, great swim, and that is the first real hard memory I remember of coach Bill Rose – outstanding athlete. This guy was really great under water and that is how far back I go, when breaststroke was under water. When we did not have a 200 IM and 400 IM – we had a 150 IM and a 300 IM. So those were the early days.


Now on to age group.  I am not going to go back as far as Bob…oh my God…help me out…Bob…Northwestern…yeah, Groseth. I am so sorry, Bob. That shows old age. But he reminded me last night of a talk I gave, my first talk at ASCA in 1969, when I talked about how we started out with 25s and never went past 125 yards in practice. I will let you read the 1969 book on that one because I wont repeat it, but I think it is interesting because what I am going to go into now is where some of you are today because that is were I was. And I will take you through what history I remember because some of you are going to relate to all of this, and I think what Eddie mentioned the other day regarding what you do – they are going to get better and that is a reality. I mean normal maturational growth and development is normal maturational growth and development.  You can be a complete idiot and put them in the water and they are going to improve. It is a matter of whether they are going to be competitive or not. So yes, I started out with only three days a week – three days for the boys and three days for the girls – and it was only two days for the girls if they had a meet on Saturday. Monday, Wednesday and Friday – Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.  The second year I got smarter, and we put the best swimmers together on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and the ones that weren’t so good on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Then we started adding mornings because I couldn’t get any more afternoons. Then after that we started looking for more pools – the Jewish Community Center, McGaw Elementary (for those of you in Southern California you know what I am talking about), Lakewood high school, Long Beach YMCA, McCormick pool, etc. And the reason I hesitate here is because I know everybody is always looking for water, or should be, because if you are not, you are not going to be competitive. You will be participatory, so hand out participation ribbons, but you will not be competitive unless you can progress your program. Find more water – it is out there.  If you have to pay for it, charge more. Very important.


From there, just a sideline, I remember going to the national championships in 1960 and sitting next to Doc Councilman – one of the greats and one of the greatest givers – when the first guy in the world broke 2:30 in the 200 breaststroke long course.  My God, the people were going crazy, Chet the Jet. Some of you will remember that. That took us to about 1960, and then from 1959 to 1964 people thought I was a fanatic because in those years having people come in to four mornings a week, plus three afternoons a week, seven practices a week for 12 and unders – you had to be insane. You had to be a fanatic. You do not have to do that to be good. No, but I wanted to win. So, do you want to be good? Do you want to be participatory or do you want to win? I wanted to win. I don’t like to lose. I cannot even play an honest game of miniature golf. I will trash talk you through the whole course. There is no doubt in my mind about it, and I will find ways, whether you are inhaling on the back swing or exhaling on the back swing. It doesn’t make any difference – I will find a way.


In 1964 I had my first opportunity to take swimmers to the national championship – Jimmy Hayes and Terry Humphries. The 1964 nationals men’s preliminaries were held at Freemont Hills Country Club – those of you in Northern California certainly know the freezing pool that is – and also Foothill Junior College, and that was the first time we combined men’s and women’s national championships. They were always separate, so in 1964 we had the first ever combined Senior National Championships long course. I learned a lot from Terry. I learned a lot from Jimmy, and certainly a lot from Monty. I had only been coaching five years, and Monty turned those two guys over to me and let me take then to Nationals.  What an eye opener. From 1964 on I can to tell you we continued to increase our training loads, and this is still age group. I had maybe a handful of 15-16 year olds, a lot of 12 and unders, and some 13-14s. Again, I had the same thing at that time where people said I asked too much, and maybe they were right. At that time we were going 5 afternoons and anywhere from two to four mornings, and the mornings were including weight training, and I had weight training for 11-12 and 13 -14’s in those days. Would I do it today? NO, but I did do it then. Also in the afternoons we had dryland. We were running anywhere from one to three miles a day, and we were also doing exercises, a lot of them.


In those years from 1964 to 1968 we were hitting about 50K a week. Now that amount today on a senior level would not be thought of as very much, but I had all the kids doing that. We had the best 12 and unders in the country. They were really good in those days. I think you have to do more than 50K to have the best 12 and unders today. Although today, to be honest with you, I wouldn’t do that. I will not do it, and I will tell you more about that in a minute. From 1969 to 1972 – we had two kids by the way on the Olympic team in 1968 and that was going around 50K. From 1969 to1972 we went up to 100K a week. Now did everybody do it?  NO. Were they teenagers? YES. 11 and 12s didn’t, the 9s and 10s didn’t, and by that time I was finally at a point where I was developing a curriculum. Some of you will hear it for the first time. Others will hear it for the first time again. But I really believe that having gone through education, physical education, and having to make the time to develop lesson plans every day of the week – some of you who majored in education know exactly what I am talking about – that is all part of the program and you learned to budget time, you learned to plan time, you learned to organize time, you learned to prepare those students for their math quizzes, their English quizzes, their Latin. Whatever it is, and that really, really impacted how I use my time in the pool.


Then all of a sudden, they told me I had to start paying for the pool. I didn’t have to at first. I want to use my time effectively, so I think the idea of having a curriculum, something you believe in, something you are convinced is right at least for now is really, really important. I think that maybe we can consider some of our coaches as artists, some of them as scientists, and some really practical realists. But whatever you are, consistency is really, really important.  You cannot evaluate if you are inconsistent. You cannot analyze if you are inconsistent. Come up with your annual or yearly or whatever period of time you want to put on it – quadrennial – curriculum. If you want to amend that curriculum, excellent. Do so, but know why and give it – what was it?  Long enough, far enough, often enough?  Whatever John said this morning because as soon as you change your curriculum too dramatically, you are not going to be able to evaluate it, so be enough of a researcher to recognize you need to control variables within your curriculum. Would I go 100K a week anymore for getting ready for the Olympic games?  YES, but that is not age group so I will not go there today. But I think it is worthwhile mentioning it. Would I do it often? NO. Probably never more than six weeks and maybe as few as 1-3, but I would have them face it, especially if they were getting ready for the mile. Or if it is early season and they are only getting ready for the 800 – maybe then too – early meaning somewhere between now and Christmas to January.


One other thing I felt that I should mention regarding age group swimming is I feel that it has been a two-edged sword over the years when we look at how we have structured our sport. I am still of those old years where we scored first through eight – even first through sixth at the nationals and then it was first through eight. Then the NCAA went to 12, and then the club coaching went to 16. The last year a small club team had a chance to win the national championships – USA Swimming Nationals – was in 1971. That was the last time the scoring went to eighth place. Now, the way they use the analogy to take it to 16 was look at how many more kids can score. Duh – yeah, the big teams score a lot more. Little teams got crucified and so did quality. Think back for those of you who have been around long enough. We had depth building, we had excellence building, and when did we start going down hill as a nation? About the time the men went to the 200 medley and 200 free relay, and the money started going to the sprinters and not going to the others – 200 IM, 200 fly, 200 back, 200 breast. Think about that. Look at history. I had to throw that out – I am sorry.


From about 1972 to 1976 I never went near 100 grand again, and up to today I have never seen it because I do not work with those kinds of swimmers any more. Also, I think I should point out what else is happening in age group swimming. There was no corporate money in age group swimming at all, and the first time really corporate swimming got involved in a very dramatic level was Phillips Petroleum Company when it started Mission Viejo Company. Then we were talking about millions of dollars, and that was a real beginning. Phillips Petroleum Company – BIG. Speedo on a smaller scale in the middle to late ‘60s, and certainly on a larger scale in the early ‘70s, and now we have got more and more corporate opportunities. Some of the clubs need to look at that very carefully to find out some of those people in your home towns who can help you, because that is going to be the next area even though the market has gone down the last couple of years. It will come back, as it somewhat has already, even with all the graft and corruption that it has.


Olympic games are for an age group coach. Pay your way and sneak in. I did it in 1968, and I almost did it in 1964. But Uncle Sam got me, and I had to go in the military for a little while – greatest opportunity in the world. Don’t worry about whether you have a place to stay or not – you will figure it out when you get there. Just get to the Olympic games, find a way to sneak in – there are always ways. I don’t care which games you go to, you always hear of somebody getting in. Unfortunately, the wrong ones got in in 1972, but that is another story. But it is a great opportunity to learn. I remember I paid my way to the European championships in 1970. A club coach who had no money, broke, very little pools. I just borrowed the money, went to Europe, and watched the European championships. I wanted to find out what we were having to face in 1972 because I had a couple of kids that I thought could make the team, and that is when we saw the worst strokes in the world from the East Germans, the worst turns in the world from the East Germans, the worst splits in the world from the East Germans, and they kicked the hell out of us. So you know, there are a lot of things that you can learn just by going and watching. Don’t wait to be invited. Don’t wait for somebody to invite you to be a national coach. You will be waiting forever. Go yourself. Do it yourself. Don’t sit in meetings. I am taking a…here, bear with me. Don’t sit in meetings and complain about what is wrong with swimming, and don’t ask the LSC to figure it out for you. Don’t ask ASCA to figure it out for you. Don’t wait for USA Swimming to figure it out for you. Look at the glass as half full. You are in control or really close to being in control of your own team. Find a way to make it happen. I gave up being on the committees in 1996. I don’t want to go any more. All it is is the faces are changing. The complaints are the same because we have had turn over of coaches. If you are going to be a long term professional, take a stand and make sure you do what you need to do. Remove all doubts. Finish first, not close. Don’t miss the Olympic games by a tenth of a second. Make it obvious and you will be famous. Don’t complain about it, do something about it. Yes, I know, I was kind of bad on that I am sorry.


Age group swimming – you wonder about curriculums – this is going pretty fast. Some of you will panic at this, but bear with me and write it down. Siega is going to kill me.  If I were developing a curriculum today as a general guide…I am going to start with mileage first because most of you understand that. I would have my five and six year olds going about 5,000 a week. I would have my 7 and 8 year olds going about 10K a week now – not a day – not a practice. My 9 and 10s would be going about 15K a week. The 11 and 12s that I am working with today are seeing 20K but never 30K in a week, but they are seeing it regularly. We don’t have the best 11 and 12s, but I do think that this will get you competitive. You may not win, but you will be competitive. You will be in the hunt. 13 and 14s 25K, 15-16s 30K, 17 and above 35K – roughly 5K more per week per age – that rounds out to somewhere near 40K when you add on warm-up, add on warm-down, and add on your transition set. Some of you want to warm-up more than others – some less than others. Some of you really do believe in transition sets from one set to the next set, and some of you may not. The little 11 and 12 year olds that I get the opportunity to work with now, like I said, which are hysterical, they wonder when we are going to have fun, and I say it is fun to swim fast. Again that is kind of an echo of what Eddie said the other day. It is not fun to swim slowly. It is especially fun to swim fast at championships. You have to swim slowly a little bit on the way – ok? – but swimming fast at championships is fun. Yes Siega, I will have more fun this year, I promise, and we are going to play capture the flag under water. I want you to know that. For 11 and 12 year olds I think you should probably go one morning a week. 13 and 14s probably two, and 15 and 16s probably three. By the time they get to be high school seniors they probably need to see four. You force it now – you offer it. Will they come? Not all the time, but sometimes they will. I think those things are important. You might not win with what this outline generally gives you, but you will be competitive, and I can tell you that if I don’t do my 20 or 25K a week, I wont be competitive in Southern California swimming. I don’t know what it will be like in your area of the country or the world, but in order to be competitive, not necessarily win, but be in the hunt, we need to do that much.


Okay, another part of the curriculum is development. We go about 40% of our swimming in freestyle, 20% in back and 20% in breaststroke. Is it all the time? Is it every week? No, and it definitely isn’t every day. But it is pretty consistent every week. You may say well, do you ever change that? Yes. 55% free, 15% fly, 15% back and 15% breast. Do I change that? Yeah I do, but I pick my time when I do it, and I vary it. Do we do negative split? Yes. Do we descend? Yes. Do we do negative split and descend? Yes. Do we do steady pace? Yes. There are a million ways you can do this, but I think it is very important in age group swimming to do this all the way to – I would like to think it would be to when they are seniors in high school, but the reality is at least a 14 and under. They have got to be considered individual medleyists. If we don’t consider them that, we are cheating them. I mean, Chet was a butterflyer before he set the world record in breaststroke. You know, we have had milers like Mark Spitz who became 100 swimmers, and the list goes on and on and on. I just mentioned the obvious ones that most of you know about. How much kicking? How much pulling? How much swimming? I actually started out at a third kick, a third pull, and a third swim. Some of you are going, “Oh my God, that much kicking?” Yes. That much pulling? Yes. That is all the swimming you did? Yes, and guess what? That is what I am going to do this fall after the first six weeks. For about the next eight weeks, that is what I am absolutely going to do. They are going to go, “Holy smokes, that is a lot of kicking.” Well I believe it is important for age groupers to kick fast. Interestingly enough, I heard Eddie say the same thing the other day for the college kids. I think you need to kick. So what better way when they have all that flexibility to keep it going? I think you need to pull, but carefully and by using the kind of curriculum that I like to use where we are constantly changing strokes every day. Every day, so I am not always pulling the same stroke, and I am not pulling it in the same way. But they are always seeing every stroke every week. In fact, they kick each stroke each week, they pull each stroke each week, and they swim each stroke each week. Another way beside a third, a third and a third – that is what I started with years ago when we first put people on an Olympic team, and they were shocked then that I was really getting killed in the longer races even though they thought we were fanatically going too much mileage. That is when I realized that the swimming that I was doing was almost all sprinting, including some of those 25s that Bob Groseth – my God Bobby, I am sorry again – kidded me about. That is when I said okay, we are going to do a little less kicking and a little less pulling and some endurance swimming. So then I went and changed my curriculum outline a little bit and went 25% kick, 25% pull, 25% endurance swimming, 25% sprint swimming, and I did that regularly. A steady diet, and today I still do the same thing. Now, it is how you design it. Some days when you sprint you might really want them to go fast and quite a bit of it. Other days you may decide that you will have them descend it to pace, but there are always ways that you can change those practices around and still be true to the fact that coaching them and teaching them – teaching them in each of the strokes all the time.


Regarding other sports, 12 and unders definitely need to be involved in other sports. I can only tell you about my background and the education programs that exist in the country, in Florida, Ohio and California. California as you know threw out physical education for all intents and purposes with Prop 19 or Prop 14, whatever it was, and it has gone downhill ever since. Our kids do not get enough physical exercise, so if they can get involved in another sport, great. If they are staying home playing video games, they need to be at practice, but I think we need to be really flexible with the kids and recognize the fact, as we have all learned in elementary and adolescent child growth and development – the big muscle development is important. Something in gymnastics. Something in martial arts, soccer, baseball, soft ball – whatever it is for 12 and unders, it is going to help them. There is no doubt in my mind about it. Would I like to have them at practice? Yes. Would I lose a lot of sleep over it? No, because for some of those things I can say okay that is an equivalency to the 3-5,000 you might do tonight, especially if they are there the whole time. But you know the reality? They go to those sports and then come to practice, too. That is real interesting because it happens regularly, and that is exciting because at least you know that you are communicating pretty well. 13 and 14s – other sports maybe for some of them. 15 and 16s – not to many other sports. 17 and olders – few to none. You just cannot be competitive if you want to go on to the collegiate level unless you are a very, very exceptional genetic amoeba, and there are not too many that come around. You know you think of Gary Hall, Sr. and not Gary Hall, Jr. Gary Hall, Sr. – if you didn’t see him swim, you have no idea what poetry in motion was. Mark Spitz – you know there just are not too many. My God, Michael Phelps, what an animal, and I mean that in a very complimentary manner. What a talent, and obviously Bob is doing a great job with him and bringing him along gradually. I think that is really beautiful.


A couple of words on taper. As I indicated earlier, I went to John Joseph because there was no doubt in my mind, of all the guys in Southern California that I knew when I was growing up as a coach, he did the best job of anybody in Southern California really preparing his swimmers for great performance at a championship. I learned a lot from him, but in all honesty, I learned even more from my wife in 1977, and she had not even started taking her masters program, which was by the way, graduating summa cum laude in exercise science. But anyway, in 1977 she was a swimmer.  She swam with Flip Dar about 4,000 a morning, 4-5 mornings a week. He tapered her for the Junior College Championships, and she went all of her best times, but she was a little frustrated because she wanted to go faster. But here is what I learned the most, and it really relates probably more to older kids, but it still relates to the kids you work with, but in a different way. She was a little frustrated, and she had her Master’s nationals coming up the very next week after the JC state championship. I said, “Beth, you need to rest more.” “Oh, I will get out of shape.” “Beth, you need to rest more.” “But look at how little I have been doing.” And she was right. He did a great job tapering her. The one thing that he didn’t recognize, and for the first time in my life I recognized, was that he saw her in the pool. He saw the training tapering down in yardage, the intensity. What he didn’t see was a woman, married, trying to bring up a husband, two children – bringing up them, working fulltime, going to school fulltime and coaching on the side. Holy moly. She was dragging her wagon, and so she just tapered for another four days and took like a 12 second drop in the 200 freestyle, and you know that kind of thing. And that was probably the best lesson I ever had, but I had to learn it very much from the back door, and that is something I have never forgotten. And all those swimmers who had me before 1977, my apologies. Those after 1977 – I am sorry, you have no excuses.


Another thing I think is really important and definitely important in age group swimming, and I really needed to pay more attention to it, but when I first started a year ago April I didn’t think it was going to be that important with 11 & 12 year olds. But now I really do feel it is important, even though it is a relearning process. I should have remembered it from 34 years before, but I define it differently. It is not just exercises, but what Bev and I called it at Ohio State, preventative habilitation as opposed to rehabilitation. The same exercises that trainers and physical therapists do today we should all be doing with all of our swimmers on a very regular basis. Think about it. Most of our training, whether it is exactly or not, it is close, is on our stomach – free, breast, fly – three-fourths of the strokes, not too much on our back. Back pull actually becomes the weakest pull we have in terms of the overall picture and just like breaststroke kick. If you are trying to kick percentages in your curriculum that sees the least and yet it is the weirdest. So there needs to be a balance there. What happens is that we are over-strengthening the front of the body. All of the anterior portion of the body is getting a lot stronger. Our posterior deltoids, our upper rhomboids, our upper traps are not getting any real antagonistic development. We need to do that on land on a very, very regular basis, and I can see it even in the 11 and 12 year olds that I have now. In fact one of the girls that will be here tomorrow morning demonstrating some freestyle is already round shouldered at 12. Paul – it’s your job baby – get them back. Paul coaches our 13-14s and she will be in that 13-14 group on Monday, and we need to get those shoulders back or we are opening ourselves up to a lot of injury. I feel really fortunate because I know that I have never had more than 8, and I can only really recall four kids in all the years I have ever coached having shoulder problems, and I am the guy who came up with hand paddles – there is a message there. I think we have to really work on those antagonistic muscle groups, and push ups are good, but what do they do? They are developing the anterior muscles of the body. Well we are already doing those in the water most of the time. We need something for back here. Rotator cuff certainly is very helpful, especially external rotation. Internal rotation we are doing all the time in the water, if our strokes are done properly. If we are getting the catch, we’ve got internal. We are not doing enough external rotation. So I feel it is important to mention that.


Another thing on age group – it is not an end all, unless you are a looser. I am thoroughly convinced that if you, in your eyes – the child’s eyes – see themselves as a loser, their career is over. You have to constantly keep letting them realize they are a winner. I will let you figure out how to do that, but when you start to have a youngster taper off and have a difficult period of time, what happens? “I don’t like it any more.” If they keep improving – “I like that”. You are the same way – so am I. You have to analyze, evaluate, and be able to determine what needs to be adjusted. That is one of the things that I really believe about individual medley training and you developing what you believe is your curriculum – you already know what mine is. Make one up that you believe in. That way if they are weak in one event, the other one is going to improve. They are still winning. They are still progressing. I think that is really important and certainly, besides age group, you have got that development that we all want to see – it goes to the sectionals or regionals, nationals, NCAA, Trials, Olympic games and Mark Moore – Master’s. It is for the rest of our life. We didn’t have Master’s in the ‘50’s. We thought age group ended at about 13 or 14. How many kids were at the national championships? How many girls were at the national championships when they were 17 or 18? Chris Von Saltza. Who else? Not many, and most of the guys went through college because why? They had grants and aide, which is another subject I want talk about very briefly.


We started with men’s grants and aides at the college level. Yes, I have been there a long time so I deserve to say this. There was no limit, and then the limit was set at 18. Then it dropped to 15, and then it dropped to 13. Today the men are at 9.9, and it has to last for four years. Meanwhile, the women have gone up to 15. At one time they were talking about taking it to 18. Women, I really want you to know how important it is that you have this. I coached women at the college level for about 18 years – 23 years when I count the other two positions. My wife did not have that opportunity and a lot of you didn’t either. It is important that you have it. Gentlemen, our guys are getting screwed.  Figure out a way. I am too old. I don’t want to work at it anymore. I really don’t. You need to. You are the history. You are tomorrow. You are tomorrow, but do something for men’s swimming. One of the things that I think will help – train your boys and girls separately. Murray Stevens – great job. Or at least have separate boys meetings and separate girls meetings. Have separate outings. Let the boys go to the mountains by themselves. Let the girls go to an overnight campout at the local state park. Keep them separate. You want to know why?  Because the 11 & 12 boys, especially, get constantly compared to the 11 & 12 girls. Well gosh, in some cases the 11 and 12 girls could be four years genetically older than the 11 & 12 boy. That is really unfair. That kid gets beaten down and now he is a loser. Separate them. The boys get to relate to the boys, and your weaker boys will get better. And it is not going to hurt the girls. They are too competitive and back-stabbing, anyway. Meow.


Also on the 11 and 12s – very difficult. Here is why. All the way from 5 and 6 they take the 25s and then they go to some 50s.  9 & 10 – 50s and 100s.  11 & 12s – they get 50s, but when they turn 13 the 50 is replaced with what? Raise your hand – 200s. As an 11 and 12 coach your job, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally teaching and educating. “How do you feel about this? How can we make you feel better about going from the 50 to the 200 fly?” “Oh shit!! I quit coach.” I think it is important. I know my job is not just to take those little 10s that I am going to get in about 48-72 hours and bring them along, but I have my 11s or 12s who are going to be 13 real soon. I have to get them ready. Otherwise, Paul’s program of 13 and 14s is in deep doo-doo. They have got to be able to face the 200 fly, the 200 back, the 200 breast, and they give up the 100 IM. And what do they get instead?  The 400 IM. They do have the 500 free, and then they get to go to the 1650. Now will they all be milers? No. Will they all be great 400 IMers?  No, but you need to get them ready for those events – mentally and emotionally, as well as physically. This fall one of the things that we are going to do with our 11 and 12s, I am going to give up quite as much running – we are going to go two days running instead of as many as six – and we are going to go two days prehab, which I admitted earlier I didn’t do enough of, and I am going to have two days in the classroom where we are just going to talk – no not we – I. I will end up talking, and then at times, on occasions, I will ask them to prepare something and present it. I did that this summer. Some of them like to go to camp, and I give them an assignment. When you go to that camp, wherever it may be, this is whom I want you to interview. This is the coach.  Interview that coach or tell me what that coach said about a given stroke, then come back and present it to your teammates. I will give you 15 minutes. What a learning experience for the ones who are doing it, and the kids actually listen to their teammates. What a shock. It has worked really well, so that is the kind of thing we are going to do more of.


Another thing I want to point out in 11 & 12s, and this has to relate to southern California, and every LSC is a little bit different, but it also relates to the NCAAs, and I want you to get this correlation. We are not training for one event – at least we aren’t.  Yeah, in Southern California, long course, we have four days for 11 and 12s, four days of preliminaries. And in those four days you are allowed to swim six events. Now you may not swim them all in one day because there is only three a day max, and if you are smart you will spread them out. So you have six preliminaries, six finals, and, on the final day, four relay swims. It is even more for the 13-14 by the way – 13 and above you have 16 races. I want my 11 and 12 year olds to swim all 16 times. I am not interested in the 50 free only or 100 breast only or 200 IM only. I want 16 races so on the fifth day of the meet when they are standing up for the last relay to go, it is not, “Oh God, I am so tired.” It is looking to the right, looking to the left, and it is not stand up/sit down, but it is fight, fight, fight. I want them tough the last day of the last race.  NCAAs 14 races:  3 individual events, preliminaries, three finals, four relays that have prelims and finals. Swim in the morning. Swim in the afternoon. You are swimming 14 races and that does not count the 800 relay, which you don’t have to do a final or you don’t swim it in the preliminary, excuse me, and the 1650 as well. But you are swimming 14 times. Well, I found it interesting that our age groupers – those 11 and 12 year olds and as I said a moment ago, it is even more for 13 and above – they are swimming 16 races in 200 hours. And you may think well that is a lot of rest – one race every ten hours, but then you figure transition time. They get to the pool, they warm-up, they warm-down after each race, they warm-down at the end of that day’s events, and they go home – it takes time. They eat it – takes time. Those kids deserve to be really tired. Maybe even have a straight jacket, okay? And then at the NCAAs, they are swimming 14 times in 83 hours. That is even more intensity, with more muscle mass, and more lactate buildup. Well, if I didn’t do the job with the 11 and 12s, and we aren’t doing it at 13, 14, 15 and 16, how are they ever going to stand up on the last day of the championship at the NCAA for the 400 free relay and feel good about themselves? And you can say, “Well not all of them are going to do that.” No, but are you going to cheat them and tell them they can’t? You need to prepare them for that. Get them ready for it. If they are never there, that is okay, but they will be ready for it. If they are there, they will be ready for it.


Really important I think – parents. When I was a younger coach, the parents were at least near ten years older than I was when I was. Now, the parents that I have are younger than my youngest daughter. My oldest is now 38, and my youngest is 34. So now it is like working with my children and my grandchildren! So how I related then, which quite frankly was very badly – “Dumb shit. You don’t know what you are talking about.” Now I kind of think of it more as a partnership. And I think it is important that we recognize that our parents and our kids are a lot more knowledgeable than they were when I started 40 years ago, and they are – the internet – and I didn’t even have a telephone in those years, or cable. But anyway, I think it is important that we recognize the fact that most of the parents we have are very learned people. A lot of them have degrees. If you don’t mind me sidetracking for a minute – get yours. Forgive me for sidetracking. I think it is really important that I let you know now it is different. I think of the parent as a partner, and it is tough. Believe me it is tough sometimes – most of the time it is real easy. I am the general partner in swimming. They are the general partner in parenting. I promise, I wont tuck them in at night. I promise I wont put food on the table. I would like you to promise me that you will let me talk to them about stroke mechanics or about their aerobic sets or their sprint sets or what their turns look like. If you want to send me a quick note about Suzy’s turn – that is good. Let me do it. Don’t screw up your parenting, and don’t screw up my coaching. I think that kind of analogy from me is working well now, and I honestly think it would have worked better when I was younger. But then I had all the answers.


As you can probably tell, I think it is important, not for education, but continuing to ask your peers questions. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel. When you have a curriculum that has been successful, and obviously John’s has because his presentation has been the same for the last six to eight years – it hasn’t changed – the only thing that was funnier this morning was I found out where the colors came from and I thought that was hysterical – that was real – I enjoyed that very much, but there are certain things that work so don’t throw them out. You might forget them, okay. Remember them again. But have something to go to and ask people the right questions. Another thing I would like to ask you is to consider the future – the tomorrow. If you could never coach again, but you had a passion, you were impassionate, maybe to the point of fanatical, because I have been there, and you were going to be the National Technical Director for USA Swimming, but you are not allowed to coach and you had a clean sheet of paper in front of you – how would you design swimming for the United States to be the best in the world? Age group to Olympic gold? Some of you, you may not be able to reach that broad a picture yet. Alright, relate it to your LSC. I’ve got to tell you, I am sick when I see some of the age group programs, and again, having lived in Florida, Ohio and California – California twice – I am just appalled at the shotgun approach that I see our LSCs working with. The individual “I wants” – what is best for me, what is best for my kids, what is best for my club.  It is really sad. And then you hear in the meetings, “Well, how come they are not helping us? Why are they doing it wrong?” Okay? Make up a program yourself. You are in charge. Clean sheet of paper. Start from scratch. There are no parameters. And if you cannot do it there, do it with your own program. Set your own parameters. Listen to everybody here. Get as confused as we all do and then go back and say, what has worked for me. What do I think I see that can work because I like a little bit of what this guy said or a little bit of what this girl said. How can I make these things fit and it still be your program? You beg, you borrow, you steal, you cajole – whatever it is – because I have stolen everything I have ever learned, and I think if you do that then you can start seeing a bigger picture instead of just today, just now. One of the things that I am really excited about with coach Rose and the Mission Viejo program is that he has done something I think that has been very unique and very new. He has actually given each one of us groups and turned us into directors. Now we can do this coach, we have a pretty big group – are we 700+ now? We have Siega who is working and totally in charge of novice and 8 and unders, and she has those coaches. Bev, who has the 9 and 10’s. I have 11 and 12’s, Paul 13 and 14’s. Bill has the 15-16’s, and Coach Rose gets the cream of the crop, and Coach John gets to work with him. We are going to be responsible and held accountable for what happens in each of those groups. Oh my God, wait a minute. At the same time that includes everything – teaching, guiding, developing, orchestrating, improving – because it isn’t just times, it is all of those things including the parents. We set up educational curriculum for our parents. I think that is really big, and I think it is really important, and I applaud what Coach Rose and Coach Siega have come up in putting something like this together – it is really great.


Okay, a couple of other items and then we will ask for questions. Some of the things that I really learned a whole lot this year, and I don’t think that it will work for all age groups but it worked for me. If we are going 25K a week, and the percentages that I gave you earlier, which I won’t repeat again, and I found out this year that if we go 6-9 – remember that is per week – for a minimum of three consecutive weeks – these are marker sets. You heard about some of it this morning and yesterday. Six to nine 200 IM’s on your fastest possible base and make them – whatever that base is. Maybe you start the season at 3:30 and you drop down as 11-12 year olds leaving 200 IM’s on three minutes. What I found is you subtract 40 seconds from that interval, and they are really close to that or maybe a little better in a meet. So if you leave on three minutes, you subtract :40 you get 2:20. Now some of you will go, “Well we have gone 2:20 without doing a set like that.” Okay, it is just my marker set. That is what I learned. Find your own marker set. Another one I found with collegiate swimmers, which I haven’t been able to relate to the age groupers at all – oh by the way, that is with good stroke mechanics and good turns – is two sets of 8 50s on a given interval. For example, leave on 35 seconds. That is really hard to do, and they do that two to three times a week for three consecutive weeks holding at least the 25 or + K per week. Whatever interval they leave on and they barely make it, now that becomes a very, very tight threshold interval. It is really hard for them to do it. Subtract 7 seconds from the interval for a college swimmer and they will go at least that – 7 X 4 for the 200 free.  Example:  leave on 35, subtract 7 is 28, and you will go 1:52 in the meets. Leave 30, subtract 7, and you hold 23s. What does that end up being? 1:32? I think so – something like that. Now you can go,  “Whoa. That is a big range.” Okay. That range can be cut down. Instead of the eight 50s, go two rounds of four 100s with 40 seconds rest between the rounds (no more), and then you subtract 14 seconds. That is what they will be able to do in a race at the end of the season – tapered, shaved, rested, and suited. That is what I have used. It helps. There are others that I really, really like a lot too, but it is not always going to work for everybody, and I know that I am boringly consistent before I give them. And I don’t give them guarantees by the way. I say you are going to be really close to this rang. And it is not, “Well you didn’t do that. I think you are really cruddy.” I don’t do that, and I don’t try to box them in. Yet somewhere in this range you’ve got a shot at this. I mean, this is real. You are a serious contender to do such and such a time. Well, that is kind of motivating, and I think when you can find those kinds of things in your program it really does help the kids recognize.


Tomorrow morning, if you are coming by to see us, I have two youngsters from Mission Viejo coming – a young man by the name of Brian Annette who went – 11 and 12 – he is 1:09 + hundred backstroker – that is meters. He’s a 1:04+ hundred freestyler, which isn’t that quick, but they are going to help me in some demonstrations for freestyle tomorrow. Megan Dwyer went a 1:10 hundred back, 1:04.5 also hundred meter free, and 2:31 in the 200 IM. And the reason I mention this is not to brag, just to let you know this is the type of swimmer that I will have demonstrating. We might have some local swimmers as well. It will be all on freestyle. It will be approximately an hour, and I would probably title that talk “The four CD’s”, and I do not mean compact disks. There are four common denominators that I like to use as a general guide for improving freestyle.  Not the only things, but a general guide for four common denominators. So those two kids will be with us.  By the way if there are any college coaches, this is the first time that you will be able to talk to Brian and to Megan, so feel free to talk to them. They are not in the ninth grade yet, and I am sure that they will be looking forward to your help later on.  Thank you very much.



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